Thursday, April 21, 2005


This report is from a long while back but I don't think it should be forgotten

"A recently released report challenges the commonly held belief that students perform better when class sizes are reduced. This is one of the hottest issues in the current education debate and is the basis on which teachers' unions across Australia argue for increased staffing levels. The report, written by academic John Keeves and Victorian teacher Anthony Larkin was published by the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Its release will be like a red rag to a bull. Already there are indications that teachers will take industrial action on the staffing issue as soon as the school year begins.

Apart from questioning whether reducing class sizes automatically improves the quality of education, the report even suggests that students often achieve more when class sizes are increased. The authors found:

* That classroom practices do not vary greatly with class size and that the teacher's own individual style appears to be the main factor determining classroom activities:
* That more able students are placed in larger classes because remedial classes are traditionally small and year co-ordinators are more prepared to tolerate class sizes creeping up if they know the class contains more able students:
* That classroom practices that change with size have little influence upon achievement outcomes;
* That larger classes have enhanced occupational and educational aspirations, possibly because students responded to greater competition:
* That larger classes achieve more.

The report did find, however, that increased class sizes have a detrimental effect upon student attitudes towards science.

The report has been warmly received by the NSW Education Department but with misgivings by the NSW Teachers Federation.

"The report doesn't solve all the questions but it adds a new dimension to the debate about classroom sizes" says NSW deputy director of education, Mr Bob Winder.

Says Federation president, Mr Ivan Pagett: "I don't dispute the findings of the report - there is a body of research which shows there is no clear correlation between class sizes and achievement. However I am worried that the report will be misused to justify a cost-cutting exercise by the Education Department""

From p. 11 of the Sydney "SUNDAY TELEGRAPH", JANUARY 27, 1985


According to a study recently released last month by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, high-school graduation rates in California are almost 20 percent less than those officially reported by the California Department of Education. While the state data show 87 percent of high-school students graduating in 2002, the Harvard study says the graduation rate was 71 percent. More shocking is the snapshot the study provides of minority graduation rates. Statewide, 57 percent of blacks and 60 percent of Latinos graduate from high school. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 39 percent of Latinos and 47 percent of blacks graduate....

Given that education is the principal predictor of future earning power, we are looking here at a classic cycle of poverty. This means that poor kids in L.A. are incapable of taking advantage of the single resource available to them - education - that can change their lives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 1999, the earnings of full-time workers without a high-school degree were 77 percent the earnings of those with high-school degrees and 45 percent of those with bachelor's degrees. The gap between education and earnings widens over time. Back in 1975, those without high-school degrees earned 90 percent of those with high-school degrees and 58 percent of those with bachelor's degrees. Not only are inner-city high schools factories of hopelessness, but as society becomes more complex, with increasing demands for an educated work force, the hole just gets deeper for kids, overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, who are not getting educated....

The frameworks for standards, reform and sanctions defined by No Child Left Behind are important reforms for our public school system. But the problem is our public school system itself. How do you fix a business that has no competition and for which government itself limitsthe possibilities for reform? Poor kids are simply trapped in a government school monopoly where the manner in which education is defined and administered and the values that are conveyed are by and large pre- scripted by a politically correct establishment..... Businesses that face competition deliver more and more for less and less. Monopolies deliver less and less for more and more. What else can we expect from the NEA and the government school monopoly than claims that spending is the answer for everything?...

We can educate these kids. But we need to open the education marketplace, take it out of the hands of the unions and monopolists, and let people who really want to help these families and their children have a chance with them.

More here


According to the RAND Corporation, Texas boasted an 88 percent pass rate on its eighth grade reading test last year while South Carolina turned in a miserable 21 percent pass rate. Texas children read far better than South Carolinians, one might conclude. One would be wrong, though. On the standard National Assessment of Educational Progress, scores from these two states are nearly identical: South Carolina has a 24 percent "proficiency" rate compared with only 26 percent among Texans.

Different state exams were useful in a pre-NCLB world. Then, states set standards with an eye toward cleaning their own houses. Now they tailor tests and statistical methods to obscure reality, compromising the integrity of state systems to keep the federal government flying blind. Last year the state of Michigan reduced the number of "failing" schools under its care from 1,500 to 216. But this remarkable achievement was merely a statistical sleight of hand. Michigan lowered the minimum passing score on the state's assessment from 75 percent to a mere 42 percent, the Heartland Institute reports. Other states lower standards by manipulating their methods for reporting results. North Carolina increased the percentage of its schools reporting adequate progress from 47 percent to 70 percent last year. The increase is largely due to a technical change in the way the data are reported. Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have made similar adjustments.

But state bureaucrats aren't the only ones with reason to dissemble. The Bush administration touted NCLB as a seminal domestic policy achievement. It wants the Act to appear successful, and it seems prepared to tolerate fuzzy math. The Department of Education has been complicit in these state shenanigans and others, approving technical obfuscations and plans that backload required progress to a time when both state and federal executive branches are sure to be in different hands. Just this week, the Department reversed a prior decision to agree with North Dakota that a teacher can be "highly qualified" by no other standard than having spent years in a public school classroom.

NCLB has states and feds smiling thinly across a mountain of paperwork like two cheating spouses in front of the children. Federal micromanagement of state testing regimens just wasn't a very good idea. The foregoing facts have inspired demands that Congress dump state tests in favor of national assessments, or empower federal bureaucrats with more minute control over schooling. But it is no solution to demand that the federal government toughen up. NCLB has already caused some homogenization of school curricula, a disturbing trend that may thwart fruitful experimentation by states and localities.

The No Child Left Behind Act should be ended, not mended. If the law were repealed, Congress could unearth some good proposals, like the House measure that would grant massive regulatory relief to "charter states" experimenting with real reform. Better yet, lawmakers could revisit an older idea: a plan to phase out the federal department entirely.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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